The Impact of Meditation

Research shows that meditating for just ten to 15 minutes per day can boost the brain’s ability to concentrate on tasks. A recent study of brain scans of students who took up meditation at Binghamton University in New York state revealed marked changes in their ability to switch between states of consciousness.

Scans from before and after an eight week meditation course for novices demonstrated  an improved ability to switch between the two general states of consciousness: the “default mode network”, when the brain is awake but not focused, such as in daydreaming; and the “dorsal attention network”, where the brain engages for demanding tasks.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports. When George Weinschenk was asked the teach as mediation class his colleague Weiying Dai, an assistant professor, was a little sceptical – especially about whether such a short amount of time spent learning how to meditate  would make any difference. Dai suggested it would be able to quantify any impact with modern technology. Dai had previously used MRI scans to track Alzheimer’s disease and suggested using the scans to look for differences in the brains of the meditation students.

Weinschenk says: “Tibetans have a term for that ease of switching between states — they call it mental pliancy, an ability that allows you to shape and mould your mind. They also consider the goal of concentration one of the fundamental principles of self-growth.”

Mediation is about practicing to be able to focus – to avoid internal distractions and also internal distractions such as thoughts of the past or of the future – and so the become more objective in a non-judgemental way.  The ability to concentrate on the moment (… to “be here now”) allows the sitter to become more aware of when the mind wanders and to refocus their thoughts.  Besides making sitters more effective in their tasks,  they may even experience the joy of “Flow states”.  Practice also enables meditators to gain authority over their emotional responses so that they are able to remains objective and avoid knee jerk or negative reactions.  All for just 10 minuet per days five times per week.

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